Rising Fuel Prices Could Offset Tax Cuts

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By Tsvetana Paraskova

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reviewing the fuel economy standards that is says are “not appropriate”, putting the federal government and California on a collision course over the plans to weaken the rules.

Amid this debate and the rising oil prices that led to continuously rising gasoline pricesfor American consumers at the start of the peak summer driving season, Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE)—an organization which advocates for policies to boost U.S. energy security by significantly reducing dependence on oil and promoting responsible use of domestic energy resources—is calling on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to seize the fuel standard revision opportunity “to protect American businesses and consumers by optimizing, not weakening, fuel economy standards.”

Rising gas prices at the pump as we enter the summer driving season threaten to offset the benefits of President Trump’s tax cuts, John W. Handy and Michael Johnson—members of SAFE’s Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC)—argue in an articlepublished in The Hill.

That’s why they are calling on U.S. policymakers to address both supply-and demand-side solutions for reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil. These include maintaining fuel economy standards to help cut the U.S. reliance on oil, whose price has jumped by 67 percent in the past 11 months to more than US$70 a barrel.

“The U.S. consumes one-fifth of daily global supply and has a transportation system that is 92 percent dependent on oil, leaving our economy exposed on both the supply and demand side to an opaque, volatile, and unfree oil market,” SAFE’s leadership council members say.

The key argument in their call on EPA’s Pruitt is that by maintaining the fuel standards by 2030, the U.S. will significantly boost its oil exports and cut reliance on oil imports.

“Since they were introduced in response to the 1973 oil embargo, fuel economy standards are the single most impactful policy we have in protecting ourselves from oil price volatility,” Handy and Johnson wrote.

Last week, after President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, SAFE said in a statement, commenting on geopolitical events that fuel uncertainty in the global oil market:

“To counter this vulnerability and insulate the U.S. economy from oil price shocks, SAFE advocates for a range of policies designed to reduce the country’s dependence. These include increasing domestic production, modernizing and strengthening fuel economy standards, adoption of advanced transportation fuels including electricity and natural gas, and the expeditious deployment of autonomous vehicles.”

On announcing that the EPA should revise the fuel economy standards, Pruitt said that “The Obama Administration’s determination was wrong.”

“Obama’s EPA cut the Midterm Evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality, and set the standards too high,” Administrator Pruitt added. The EPA is re-examining California’s special waiver under the Clean Air Act to impose stricter standards for vehicle emissions than federal requirements. California replied to this that “We’re ready to file suit if needed to protect these critical standards and to fight the Administration’s war on our environment. California didn’t become the sixth-largest economy in the world by spectating,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

SAFE’s Handy and Johnson call for “a strong, unified national fuel economy standard” to help the U.S. withstand the global oil price volatility.

Yet, a number of years will pass until autonomous vehicles become so widespread so as to impact U.S. gasoline consumption. Until then, gas prices will depend on oil prices in a global market that will probably continue to be influenced and manipulated (at least on the supply side) by a cartel, OPEC.

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